How I’ll Always Remember Germany

After spending nearly three weeks outside the United States—one week in Ireland and two weeks in Italy—I am finally getting over culture shock and am beginning to understand the reality of a new culture. Having never really left the states before, except for a few trips to Mexico when I was younger, the thought of a whole other culture seemed only like something you would read about in a textbook; but spend five minutes in a foreign country and you will quickly realize your culture is not the only culture, nor the best one.

            My first experience in a foreign country started in the Frankfort airport in Germany. Before I go any further let me just say that the Frankfort airport is a huge airport, larger than most airports back in America. So here I was traveling in a country I’ve never been to with one my best friends who also has never been here. Everything seems to be going great until we get to customs and security needs to see our passports. This is not a problem for as I have my passport in hand, but for my friend this a real problem. Her passport was in her carry-on which the flight attendant made her check as she boarded the plane and failed to give back to her and the only way to get to her bag is to go through customs. In case I didn’t mention it before, our plane landed at 9:45 and next flight leaves at 10:45. In the hopes that I can find my friend’s bag I leave her behind at customs much to her mother’s dismay who told me right before we left, “Gabriel don’t leave her under any circumstance.” So with that thought ringing in my head, I left her behind and headed onto the baggage claim where I found her missing bag. My next task was to get it back, but there was only one problem; I could not return the way I had entered. So here I am alone, in a foreign country, and not knowing one word in German. By this time, I had already come to terms with missing our flight, so I set out to find a way to get back to where I had started. Just to reiterate, Frankfort is a large airport. As I come up from the baggage claim there is an ocean of people all who seem to be travelling in large groups like schools of fish and trying to get passed them proved to be a challenge in itself. After wandering around aimlessly in an attempt to find the place I had started out in, I finally found out where I needed to go but could not get there. It was as if it was a game and these obstacles had been placed there to test my spirit and determination. It didn’t help that the barrier keeping me from my destination was made of glass. It was an elaborate taunt that pushed my frustration to its limits. Summing up enough courage I finally asked one of the guards what I had to do to get to the other side of the glass and what he said I’ll never know. Fortunately there was a lady passing by that spoke both English and German and told me what I needed to do and let pass.

            Knowing what needed to be done, I headed towards the security check. I had already been through a number of security checks on my way here, but this time I had a little bit extra baggage. As I was wandering around the airport, I not only had to carry my backpack but Christina’s as well. I have no idea what she packed into it but it felt like she stuffed it full of bricks. So here I am, covered in sweat, carrying not one, but two backpacks into the security lane. After emptying my bag of my laptop and a few other items that needed to be taken out I started on Christina’s. I only removed her laptop and prayed that whatever else she had inside would make it through security. Luckily it did and I was able to move on to the next objective. The next task was customs…Again. The man reviewing my passport gave me a strange look, probably wondering why I have two German stamps in less than two hours. Once that was finished, my destination was in sight, but what seemed so close was actually far away. Rather than letting me walk through a glass door to where Christina was, (I know glass again) I had to circle all the way around. Finally getting back to her was a big relief. The whole time I kept thinking to myself “I hope she stays put” but then again where else could she go? Fortunately Christina was able to get us on another flight free of charge and our next stop was Rome, Italy. Looking back on this experience it’s both humorous and insightful. Having been only three weeks since this whole ordeal took place both of us can laugh and joke about it and whenever she says I am too mean to her I just remind her of the “Frankfort incident” and she shuts up. However this experience has done more for me than just give me a few laughs here and there. Being alone in that airport made me realize that there will be times in life where you are stuck and can see no way out and not have any idea where to go next. It is times like this that you need to trust in God and know that he will take care of you no matter what. Also it taught me that no one can be anywhere by themselves. I knew what I needed to do but could never have done it if I did not ask for help, which is hard for me and most guys to do.

          With these reflections in mind I am eagerly looking forward to my time studying abroad and hope for more adventures that will teach me more about who I am.